Monday, January 18, 2010

The Silent Generation

As 30 thirty-something born and raised in Zimbabwe, my generation had it easier than most. We could be termed the first fruits of freedom, the first generation to be raised in an independent Zimbabwe, a liberated land brimming with hope, excitement and possibility. The war for independence in the 70’s was a story we read about in history and Shona literature books. The economic meltdown of the recent decade didn’t affect us much because 80% of us had already packed up and left.

But for all we have been given it would seem that, as I see it, we have turned out to be the most complacent generation. The hope and freedom which was fought for and handed to me as part of the first independent generation of Zimbabweans seems to have fizzled in my hands. My lack of patriotic drive is something observed every time a crisis hits our country. With each catastrophe, I am vocal and opinionated – peruse through Facebook, Twitter and any major social media platform and I am there. I (try to) intelligently debate the issues with my loud, sharp and differing views, but it seems this is as far as it goes.

My apathy may be masked by my vociferous debates but it does not go unnoticed; I have nothing to show for my opinions or for my discussions across restaurant tables. What physical contribution have I made to my nation? What Zimbabwean causes have I championed and followed through? Besides watching my country fall to ruins, what have I done to ensure my generation goes down in the history books with a personal legacy that our children will be proud of? What will they say about me after I am dead and gone?

Being based in South Africa so much as happened here, major incidents that grabbed international headlines and many of those incidents involved our fellow Zimbabweans. Incidents of xenophobic violence in various communities, displacement of foreign nationals (mostly Zimbabweans) and poverty on all levels was the order of the day. With all those incidents, I was shocked, disgusted, saddened, moved...and I did what I do best, I talked about it - to my friends. But to those who had lost homes, been assaulted, and were affected by the senseless violence, I said nothing and the sum of my efforts were a few hours doing a charity drop on a Saturday afternoon. I remained the Silent Generation.

How did I become so impassive? Did I have it so easy that I have become hedonistic and self-serving in my approach to life and others, focusing only on the betterment of my life and the lives of my immediate family? I am supposed to be the voice crying out for justice and calling for or driving change from wherever I am. I am after all the generation that has known the best of Zimbabwe and what it represents and after all I have received, what stops me from speaking out and having a heart for those less fortunate? Surely this is the purpose we should all seek…To take on a cause bigger than ourselves and to make our mark on this world, make a difference in our countries.

It’s not enough to call for change, yelling “out with the old, in with the new”. Who amongst us is worthy to take up the reins and lead our country should the “old” be gone? We have the brains and the desire, but something is missing. And if we don’t work together to find out what it is that has us acting like observers in pertinent matters that concern our fellow countrymen, we will remain the Silent Generation.

P.S. Thanks to Tendai Maidza for co-authoring:)


  1. Fair enough Bren, and I think a lot of this applies to young South Africans as well, perhaps in a slightly different way, but still, there are parallels. I certainly still feel that, bar a few written letters, my contribution to South Africa is also vociferous argument and not much else.

    WHat do you plan on doing though now that you have realised this?

  2. Vicky said: It is so true, and so hard - what can we do? when we are told it is not our home, my passport has expired and won't be renewed, I have no claim to the land of my birth, no right to pass to my sons. I know many who would stand and be counted if they felt there was someone who could lead, some difference that could be made - hell, who wouldn't want to go home and live in Zim, let our kids grow up free as we did?

  3. Thanks for the comments all. I think the main thing would be to get enough people to realise that the responsibility is ours. Nobody else is going to do this.I am hoping to use this blog/twitter/FB to raise some form of awareness in this regard. I am also trying to make contact with as many non-partisan political authorities as i can to get advice/tips/guidance and see how best to start this movement. Any help, publicity and support is appreciated.

  4. See thats the advantage AND disadvantage of being a Zimbabwean youth. We are probably the most peace-loving generation the world has ever known but on the tail end of that is the truth we must face- that our peace-loving nature is AKA COMPLACENCY. On my end, I'm absolutely FOR helping in every way possible: financial, hands-on charity work, voicing my opinion to whoever will listen, etcetera and I'm actually taking steps in that direction. I'm living in Canada currently and I LOVE my country and I'm ever SO proud that I grew up in Zimbabwe. Just dont expect me to arm myself with an AK or go into some sort of Chimurenga III. Does that make me a hypocrite? Maybe. In my eyes, unlike most, at least I'm doing SOMETHING. But, I guess that would be according to the next person's opinion.

  5. thank u for this post bren, my friend forwarded it to me. even as an exchange student who spent a year in zimbabwe nearly 10 years ago, i feel a profound connection to this HOME that welcomed me and changed my life. I am angered by the complacency i live even as i talk about how helpless i feel to do anything but im not giving up yet. i commend u for yr passion and your posting. writing is power and community uniting is powerful. wanted to show support from a japanese american who loves zimbabwe.